“Nothing can harm you as much as your own thoughts unguarded.” – Siddhartha Gautama (Buddha)
If you read the quotes before my posts, you’ll usually find a quote from Scripture. This time, however, I’d like to look at Japan from a different perspective than from our usual viewpoint. Other quotes I could use for this post could perhaps be, “Before you judge a man, walk a mile in his shoes”, or “Why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother’s eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?”. Jesus teaches us not to judge according to the outward appearance, and I want to share a little bit about our shoes/beam/thoughts here that you might not yet understand, just as there are many things that you experience that we don’t understand.
What I mean to say is, it’s sometimes impossible to quite understand someone else’s situation without actually going through them. That’s one good reason why a bishop has to be married and to have raised children well- he could no way understand someone who he needs to counsel, if he himself didn’t have experience! It is certainly true – you have no idea what it’s like to be married unless you are actually married, or what it’s like to raise children unless you actually have some (some of you might say amen to that one)! But likewise, the same is true about being on a mission field. Getting to the point, that is what I want to share with you this time – a little of our real struggles and obstacles.
One of the main reasons that we are here is also one of our bigger difficulties: there not being many Christians. Within the greater Fukui area there are only three-or-so churches that we are aware of – ours, a Catholic church, and one that has women “preachers and elders”. One of America’s christians’ weaknesses is good doctrine. Paul said to earnestly contend for the faith, and to take heed to sound doctrine. Here there is barely any doctrine to contend for in the first place. There are hardly enough people to carry a/the church, and there is rarely someone that we can go to when we need help. Going to church service here is rarely strengthening, and often times the opposite. We often find ourselves alone in our problems, which at times, is extremely difficult. Most of those that we trust, can communicate easily with, and understand us, are oceans away. This is perhaps Mia’s greatest battle here: not having someone else to console in. There is rarely a reprieve for her from this. As we think and pray for others facing this on the mission field, this problem is certainly a realer struggle than many might realize.
Something else (that we’ve slightly mentioned before) is a problem specific to Japan – an extreme workaholic system. We recently shared an article on Facebook (http://www.businessinsider.com/japan-fertility-crisis-2017-4) that does a decent job at describing a little of its effect. Japan’s outlook on work not only creates several other problems, but also fuels itself. Because the majority consensus expects employees to work often without days off or sometimes even allowing time to return home for the night, people have less time (as well as interest) for getting married – much less having children.
Japan’s work nature is also perhaps the leading reason why Japan has nearly one of the highest suicide rates in the world. These two things jointly have started putting the country in an increasing population shortage – which also means that there are less employees available, forcing current ones to work even more. This is not a problem that we ourselves have been exempt from. At the times that I am needed most for family or to be available for ministry is when I am sometimes required away for work doing extra hours. Especially in light of the previous paragraph, not having much time is one of the bigger problems that I face. Just this past weekend we got our first (and only) vacation day for the contract year, so we got to spend three days in Kyoto, the former capital of Japan. Practically the entire city is devoted to the gods (or to the aspiration of becoming one), and I expect that we’ll share more about it in the next post.
And, of course, to be expected is the language. For my age I have a lot of (often humorous) amount of health issues – some of which are minor and some of which are more significant. However, what things are trivial in the States is very different here, and trying to get medical treatment is not so easy (did I mention not being able to get time for things?). One thing that is nice, however, is being in a country with advanced technology, education, and standards. I have had some sort of problem in my abdomen for a couple of years now, but it has been getting worse over time. I had several examinations and an hernia surgery performed in the U.S., however it turned out that the doctor did the surgery in a completely different area than where my problem was, and did not actually operate on the correct thing. Since having moved to another country, my problem has only gotten worse and we still receive more bills to pay for the malpractice. I made one visit to a general practitioner here in Japan, had the same kind of test on the same area, and he found an abnormality that none of the doctors found in the U.S. Though we’re doing our best to communicate, it certainly is nice that the medical system is superb. I have an appointment with the surgical department of a local hospital at the end of June, and appreciate your prayers for these things as I don’t know how difficult it will be to communicate and understand.
Lastly, I want to mention one other burden that we face, but not actually here – the affairs in the U.S. It perhaps goes-without-saying, but I’m going to say it anyway – it would be impossible to do what we are doing if it weren’t for the many who are doing what they can back in the States! From handling our finances, property matters, and other decisions, there is a lot that goes on behind-the-scenes to help make everything happen. Just like how Mia takes the “supportive” role in the family, she is irreplaceable, and without the countless things that she does, our family would not endure. In regards to ministry, your support, without a doubt, functions the same way for us in Japan. For us, it sometimes feels like a large, looming burden that things need dealt with, not just in front of us, but also all the way in the U.S. There are current challenges that are on-going, some financial, some family related, and some managerial. Thank you so much to those of you who are physically doing what you are, and to all we ask for your continued prayers, for us, and for them as well.
We often lose some of the meaning of Scripture because of the time and culture that we live in. Jesus said that “the harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few”, and that is a truth here. The strain and obstacles are the reason we need to serve here, and the more reason that we can’t do it without your support and prayers. The Japanese people are blinded by their ideals, religion, and even their goals. We plead for your prayers for the 128 million people here without Christ, and for us to be able to reach them, in Jesus name. Below is a song Mia and I have enjoyed over the years and we highly recommend you to listen to it. “A lifetime of labour is still worth it all if it rescues just one more soul“!